Sunday, March 25, 2007


I was away for 10 days before putting up the previous post. This is one of the longer driving holidays we've been on and it was quite busy, packed with things to see and do. We went to Goa, and stopped off in parts of Karnataka that we drove through, so we saw waterfalls, beaches, forts, plantations, temples, churches and me being me, went to quite a few stores in search of local specialities as well.
The first picture that I put up for the guessing game came from a small plantation attached to a temple in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, specifically from a place called Honnavar, about two hours from the Goa border. We took different routes to and from Goa and several stretches of both routes were flanked by these plantations.

So, as Sia, Mallugirl and Maneka guessed, the first picture is the fruit of the areca palm (also called the betel nut, though the betel, a leaf, actually comes from a different plant, a vine).It's considered a bad habit to eat too much nut powder (a mixture of areca and spices) but in small doses after a meal, it can aid digestion. It's believed to strengthen the teeth and gums too.

The palm grows to a height of 70 feet and the fruits, just like miniature coconuts, grow beneath the fronds - you can see a spray-like formation in the picture - that's got several tiny fruits growing along each prong.

When ready, they are picked and sun-dried and then split open for the nut. The process differs based on the region but this is what I gathered from speaking to the priest at the temple.
See a picture of the betel leaf, nuts, nut-cutters and some more information here.

It was again Sia, Mallugirl and Maneka who guessed the cashew apple. I've seen plantations but have never seen the fruit on the tree. I tasted it just once but the nut had come off, so I can say this is the first time I've seen the real, whole McCoy. I'm notorious for extracting the peanuts and cashew nuts from the snacks that are passed around; my friends even credit me with a technique for that all my own!
The picture in the previous post was from a wayside plantation in Goa - the air is fragrant with the scent of these trees. I deliberately used that picture because the nut had dropped off. The fruit was ripe, waxy and oily, too much of a temptation not to pick. I clicked it, then I flicked it!

There are red fruit too, as you can see in this picture. The fruit are crushed and their juice fermented and distilled to make feni. This photo is from a distillation unit that was housed in a plantation we visited. There are a few plantations in and around Ponda which offer various packages for tourists (there may be others elsewhere, too) - with and without stay. I didn't know till recently that the oil of cashew is used as an anaesthetic for leprosy, and to cure warts and corns.


And now, we come to the final picture of the previous post. I'm thrilled (heh heh)no one who commented could guess what it was. I didn't too, when I saw it lying in the Sahakari Bhandar in Panaji. I was busy searching for cocum when I spied this. Another shopper nearby looked at me strangely when I asked her what it was but it was totally a new discovery to me - I've never, ever seen it in that form.
It was with some reservations that I posted it as the third question in the guessing game - it was not a spice I was "born into", it's not a spice I use in my daily cooking, I saw its other common forms only a few years ago (blush, blush!) and began using upon the recommendation of friends, but did that mean no one else would know it in this form?
Apparently, it's as strange to you all as it is to me, so here goes - it's asafoetida! Yes, inguva, hing, perungayam in Telugu, Hindi and Tamil. I like saying those unaccustomed to it react similarly to how most vegetarians react to the smell of frying fish - with a shudder and noses wrinkled, but for all its sulphurous pungency, this resin comes with a host of benefits, digestive, curative (whooping cough, asthma) and is even used in perfumes, I've read, difficult though it may be to believe. It's even called 'devil's dung' because of its smell! What a nickname to earn!

I'm sending this off to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week by Kate of Thyme for Cooking.



  1. hey...i haven't seen asafoetida in its orriginal foam before..and i couldn't even make a good guess from the pic too....good job it was a real good trip u had i think..

  2. How wonderful to explore the markets and learn about both the familiar and unfamiliar.
    With my northern USA culinary background I wouldn't have had a clue about any of them.
    I do know what a cashew is, however, and am also very good at getting them all out of the snacks ;)

  3. sra, u little teaser:) its past 11.30 and i was about to wrap things. then all of sudden i remembered u saying about revealing thigs. so here i am, instead of sleeping and snoring away to glory, checking ur blog for answers:)
    yipppyyyyyyyyy... i did guess 2 things correctly:) do i get any prize for that?

  4. devils dung?????????? he he he... coffee was almost close;) only difference is cow and devil;)

  5. Maneka, sorry if I gave you the impression it was the original form of asafoetida! I don't think it is. It's probably a form peculiar to Goa.
    Katie, ah a fellow cashew junkie!
    Sia, Hope you did manage to sleep well afterwards! Prize, sure! Will take you out to lunch if we ever meet!

  6. Actually, Sia, I shall send you some devil's dung as a prize :)

  7. Adike and Geru hannu ,that's we call them.I didn't see the Cashew fruit,I would have guessed,we used to eat the fruit and burn the outside shell of the seeds,smash open and eat the cashews inside.It was fun spending summers in the coffee plantations for us:))

    Thanks sra for the photos and memories.

  8. These are good things. But hey i wanted to see some beautiful Goa pics too.
    Its been 6 years that I last visited Goa and never taken the route you said. When you get time and if you want to want to please share some pics

    "We went to Goa, and stopped off in parts of Karnataka that we drove through, so we saw waterfalls, beaches, forts, plantations, temples, churches"
    What a beautiful trip it must have been

  9. what devil's dung for prize???? he hehe... i dont mind sra;) anything from india(even if its cow dung) is fine.. apni mitti ki khushboo or bhoo , anything is fine;) he he he...

  10. Asha, I somehow thought you'd be able to guess, given that you had a plantation background, but now I know you didn't see the pic. Glad I was able to bring back some nice memories.
    Sandeepa, it was a fulfilling trip - we are a bit more involved than the average tourist so that involves going to places even on mere hearsay (or despite hearsay) so we see a lot more than most people do. In fact, the areca tree I came across in the search for a waterfall, which we found but was more like a drain!
    Khushbhoo or bhoo - that's funny, sia!

  11. Hi Sra , That must have been one great trip!! and so many new things to learn.
    BTW dear Sra the Sri Rama Navami is today 26th and in India its 27th. Just want to let you know in case you were planning something.
    hope this helps you in future.


  12. Very interesting. I love learning about these new things. I've read on many blogs about asafoetida, but never tasted it, at least not that I know of. I'm very keen to try a dish that's seasoned with it.

  13. i am telling each and everyone who is interested(and also not interested) to listen abt devil's dung:) i am having gala time with publicising it;) i guess soon it will be called as devil's dung...he he he....

  14. Sharmi, yes, great trip, and thank you.
    Kalyn, yes, I learnt about something called ramson from this week's WHB.
    Sia, good for you! I'm like that too - if I am into something, will make sure everyone around me suffers because of my enthusiasm ... ha ha

  15. Looks like you guys had a great time.

  16. Wow a whole lot of inormation here!!

  17. Enjoyed your post a lost Sra! Do post some more travel pics for us armchair travellers :)

  18. Yes, KA, we had a good trip!
    Jyothsna, and there I was, thinking I had given too little! I didn't give more because the post was too long and I was scared of tech problems.
    Thanks, Viji.
    Thanks, Nandita. Will do!

  19. what a trip u had. i am so envious! th ehing i would never have guessed having never seen it.

  20. You'll go too, one day. The hing is different, isn't it?

  21. neat!!!...... lovely trip that was!!!!

  22. Yes, very nice trip - I enjoyed myself thoroughly

  23. lol I just played the guessing game in previous post without knowing that it's revealed in thte post above:)).

    I was right about first and second but the third was a real surprise. I have never seen asafoetida other than in the powdered form.

  24. Reena, welcome to my blog. Yes, the hing was a real surprise to me too!

  25. I've developed this longing to have 'jeedi mamidi', as they call in Telugu, the fruit from Cashew tree. Nice picture!

  26. Vani, you impress me with that perfect spelling of jeedi mamidi! I'm also flattered you know what it's called in Telugu.